27 kms west of Florence is the small town of Vinci, where Leonardo, the famous artist, architect, engineer and inventor was born. At the sound of his name most people will immediately think of the enigmatic smile of the Mona Lisa but he was more than just an accomplished artist. His notebooks show that he was a voracious designer and inventor, studying the mechanics of life to draw inspiration for modern architecture, machines and vehicles.
To find out more about this genius, I am visiting the Museum Of Leonardo da Vinci. Two buildings in the old town, one of them the 12th century castle, house models of his creations with written details and video graphics to better explain the ingenious designs. I avoid a rather large Italian school group by first visiting the rooms attached to the ticket office where Da Vinci’s designs of cranes, weaving looms and clocks are displayed. Then I move on to the castle to see models of his designs for a bicycle and car, his observations on flight and his appreciation of optical illusion in his art. As a qualified engineer myself, it’s all very fascinating, but what I find most intriguing is his great insight and imagination for someone living in the 16th century. His wealthy patrons, who required his assistance with construction and military projects possibly realised his genius but it is only the scientists of today, who study the scribblings in his notebooks that really appreciate his talent.
His creations are so close to those we find in our lives today that I often wonder if he was a time traveller or if he could see into the future. I would certainly be keen to return to the past and meet the man behind the mind.